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Indigenous Groups Are Key to Reversing Amazon Destruction

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Saturday, November 12, 2022

As world leaders return home from COP 27 and prepare for other meetings they must listen to native peoples and the plans they bring to the table to quell extraction from the Amazon

As world leaders return home from COP 27 and prepare for other meetings they must listen to native peoples and the plans they bring to the table to quell extraction from the Amazon

As world leaders return home from COP 27 and prepare for other meetings they must listen to native peoples and the plans they bring to the table to quell extraction from the Amazon

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Here’s what’s at stake for Indigenous peoples at COP28

Negotiations happen behind closed doors, but for Indigenous peoples, “a lot of work happens in the hallways.”

Ozawa Bineshi Albert wants the world to stop relying on fossil fuels. So last year, the co-executive director of Climate Justice Alliance flew from the U.S. to Egypt to make her voice heard at COP27, the international conference on climate change where world leaders gather to negotiate new commitments to battle the climate crisis. But at COP27, Albert, who is Anishinaabe and Yuchi, noticed that Indigenous peoples like herself were outnumbered by fossil fuel lobbyists. She was also struck by how many people touted nuclear energy as an alternative to burning oil and gas.  “Nuclear is one of the most dirty, damaging energy sources, particularly for Indigenous people,” she thought. “It touches Indigenous communities all along its lifecycle from where it gets mined, to where it gets processed, to where nuclear power plants are placed, to where nuclear waste gets stored.” That observation was just one indication of how the perspectives, and experiences, of Indigenous peoples aren’t always reflected in the broader environmental movement. As COP28 kicks off in the United Arab Emirates this week, hundreds of Indigenous advocates are making their way to Dubai with the hope of ensuring that their communities aren’t overlooked by global leaders. Though the conference doesn’t officially begin until Thursday, the work has already started. Jennifer Tauli Corpuz is Kankanaey-Igorot from the Philippines and is managing director of policy at Nia Tero. She spent eight hours Tuesday in an auditorium with about 350 fellow members of the Indigenous Peoples Caucus, a delegation representing Native peoples, working on the details of a two-minute opening statement that the Caucus will be allowed to give during COP28’s opening ceremony. Corpuz says it’s not easy to distill everyone’s perspectives and issues into such a short statement and the work required interpreters in five languages.  Apart from ending fossil fuel reliance, Indigenous advocates at COP28 want to ensure that funding to offset the impacts of climate change reaches their communities; ensure Indigenous knowledge is seen as a solution to climate change; and prevent governments and private actors from violating their rights, especially as those actors pursue green energy projects.  Corpuz said the caucus plans to approve advocacy papers outlining their positions Wednesday. Then comes the work of convincing negotiators to listen. But it’s not easy.  The estimated 350 Indigenous peoples at COP28 is an attendance record for Native advocates, but it’s still far fewer than the 600 fossil fuel lobbyists who attended COP27 last year. As well, the most important work at the conference, negotiating the exact language of international climate change treaties, gets done behind closed doors among designated representatives from United Nations member countries.  Corpuz estimates that perhaps 20 of the 350 Indigenous people at COP28 this week have government badges that allow them access to negotiations. But even then, because they aren’t credentialed delegates representing a negotiating party, they are only able to watch and listen, not speak, she said. Still, it’s an improvement over past years when Indigenous peoples’ representatives were locked out from even more rooms, said Corpuz. At least now Indigenous representatives will be able to hear the details of the negotiations, the perspectives of international representatives, and carry the information back for advocates to lobby government delegates. “A lot of the work of the Indigenous Caucus happens in the hallways,” Corpuz said. A key question that’s expected to be decided this year is how much money wealthy nations like the U.S. should pay in order to cover the costs of climate disasters in the Global South, an initiative known as the loss and damage fund. One study estimates that nations in the Global North are responsible for 92% of excess carbon emissions each year, compared with 8% in the Global South. “What’s at stake is how these finance mechanisms are going to impact and be accessible to Indigenous communities and other impacted communities, how they will be funded, and to what levels will they be funded,” Albert said. “And will those resources actually get to communities and not be taken up by agencies that will administer them?”  Eriel Deranger of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation in Canada and executive director of Indigenous Climate Action, thinks that it makes sense that wealthy countries would be paying for climate impacts, but Deranger also wants the money to be available to Indigenous people no matter what country they live in due to already extreme climate impacts, many of which are exacerbated by colonization and land theft. “If Canada, for example, or the U.S. is contributing to the loss and damage fund and we don’t have access to it as Indigenous people in North America or in the Global North, where are we going to see those kind of climate reparations and restitution for the damages that we are facing from the climate crisis?” Deranger asked.  But money is only part of the equation, said Kandi White, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nations in the U.S. and program director at the Indigenous Environmental Network, which sent a 25-member delegation to Dubai. “For Indigenous peoples, it’s not just about the money, but it’s also about the return of our sovereignty over our lands,” said White.   That sovereignty has been threatened by land grabs, including recent land deals between a United Arab Emirates company and five African nations for the carbon credit trade, White said. The land deals were touted as a way to help conserve land and offset pollution, but White is concerned about whether the Indigenous people living there truly consented to the plan as well as how they’ll be affected. It’s part of a broader pattern of conservation deals that are creating conflict in Indigenous territories around the world. Both Deranger and White, who are in Dubai this week, also hope to establish a grievance procedure through which Indigenous peoples whose rights are infringed upon could hold governments accountable. “We need there to not just be lip service of, ‘We recognize Indigenous rights,’ but we need to see language that has teeth,” Deranger said.  But securing that level of accountability may be an uphill battle. Even when world leaders make promises, they don’t always fulfill them: wealthy countries blew a 2020 deadline to spend $100 billion a year to help poorer nations cope with climate impacts and make progress toward decarbonization. One study suggested that goal may have been met last year, two years late, even as the world hurtles toward 3 degrees of warming. The combined challenges—a lack of access to negotiating tables and tepid commitments by global leaders—have fueled disillusionment. Moñeka De Oro, who is Chamorro from the Mariana Islands and co-executive director of the Micronesia Climate Change Alliance, says that last year at COP some Indigenous Caucus members discussed boycotting the convention, “no longer being a part of these processes that continuously degrade our input,” she said.  De Oro recently helped draft a declaration for peace, unity and climate justice in the Pacific to be read at COP that called for a future free of colonialism and militarization. But as much as she believes in that message, she joined a boycott of this year’s convention with Grassroots Global Justice Alliance protesting the Israeli government’s war on Gaza, and questions whether to attend future meetings.  “If you’re going to continue to continuously be ignored and continuously be just erased from the entire process, I don’t know how much longer we want to be complicit in attending these sorts of things,” she said. The power imbalances can be discouraging but Ozawa Bineshi Albert still feels determined.  “COP is not a place that we go to thinking we’re going to get everything we want,” she said. To her, the overarching question is: “How can we make sure that we at least hold the line and make sure the least amount of damage and the least amount of harm is caused to frontline and Indigenous communities?” Editor’s note: Nia Tero is a funding partner with Grist. Funding partners have no role in Grist’s editorial decisions. This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Here’s what’s at stake for Indigenous peoples at COP28 on Nov 29, 2023.

This Indigenous Cook Wants to Help Readers Decolonize Their Diets

Calvosa Olson grew up with a Karuk mother and an Italian father on a homestead in the Hoopa Valley Reservation, near California’s northern edge. She spent a great deal of time during those formative years outside, learning about her plant and animal relatives and eating a combination of commodity foods and the foods her parents […] The post This Indigenous Cook Wants to Help Readers Decolonize Their Diets appeared first on Civil Eats.

Sara Calvosa Olson didn’t set out to write a traditional cookbook. She had spent several years writing a column about the Indigenous foodways of California for the quarterly magazine News From Native California when she landed a book deal with Heyday Books (the magazine’s publisher) to expand on the column. Then, the pandemic hit and Calvosa Olson turned toward her own kitchen and began writing about and developing recipes based on the meals she’d been cooking for more than two decades. Chími Nu’am: Native California Foodways for the Contemporary Kitchen, released earlier this fall, is the fruit of that labor. Calvosa Olson grew up with a Karuk mother and an Italian father on a homestead in the Hoopa Valley Reservation, near California’s northern edge. She spent a great deal of time during those formative years outside, learning about her plant and animal relatives and eating a combination of commodity foods and the foods her parents grew, gathered, hunted, and bartered for. “Family celebrations and special foods were formative to the way I now show love and connect to my identity as a flourishing matriarch,” she writes in the introduction to Chími Nu’am. “We are all colonized, our palates are colonized. And it’s kind of impossible to raise children who don’t love Fruit Snacks and other processed foods.” Although Calvosa Olson moved to the Bay Area, she stayed in touch with the Karuk community and continued to nurture the food traditions with which she was raised. She writes: “When I had children of my own, I wanted to connect my sons to these family recipes and to being Karuk, as we were living away from Karuk community and traditional lands. By intentionally establishing this connection, I discovered a love for developing new and colorful recipes based on our old family recipes and traditions. Gathering wild foods, sharing, teaching, cooking, and tending have all been an opportunity to grow and heal in the nurturing way I didn’t know I needed.” Chími Nu’am, which translates to “Let’s eat!” in the Karuk language, is in many ways a record of that process in addition to a compendium of recipes. Organized by season, the book guides its readers in gathering, processing, and cooking with Indigenous foods in hopes of helping us begin to integrate more traditional ingredients into our oversimplified modern palates. Its recipes range from creative takes on familiar foods—blackberry-braised smoked salmon and elk chili beans—to dishes that will be entirely new to many readers, such as nettle tortillas, miner’s lettuce salad, and spruce-tip syrup. And it includes recipes for nearly a dozen foods made with acorns, including crackers, muffins, crepes, and hand pies, as well as a rustic acorn bread that calls for one cup of acorn flour and two cups of wheat flour. Calvosa Olson has written a book that will speak to multiple audiences. But whether she’s guiding Indigenous readers to embrace more of their cultural foods or making recommendations for non-Indigenous readers interested in decolonizing their diets in an ethical way (hint: it’s about reciprocity), her voice and philosophy come through clearly on the page. Civil Eats spoke to Calvosa Olson recently about the book, how she hopes it will reach those very different audiences, and her urgent call to all of us to begin reconnecting to the natural world through food. How did the recipes in the book take shape, and how did you decide what to include and what to leave out to protect or preserve specific cultural foods and traditions? I think we can all agree that Native people have lost so much, and so much has been taken, appropriated, and diluted. There are still some cultural foodways that are very similar to the foodways that we have always eaten. And because there are so few, I didn’t feel like it would be appropriate to put those in a book for everybody. Even in the work that I do for my own family, there’s a difference between what is for us in ceremony and what is for us to incorporate in our everyday lives or to maintain our connection to our stewardship. We are all colonized, our palates are colonized. And it’s kind of impossible to raise children who don’t love Fruit Snacks and other processed foods. But I really wanted them to develop a love for foods that are bitter or fishy—those types of things that we shy away from in Western culture. “We are all suffering from diet-related diseases. It’s terrible. And it’s so difficult to right that ship for many reasons.” Different audiences will experience this book differently, but as a non-Indigenous reader, I felt invited in—invited to take part and understand more of the cultural experience behind these foods rather than merely follow recipes. That said, gathering and preparing these ingredients is also going to be a learning curve for some readers. We all need to develop relationships with our foodways, and our lifeways, and what’s going on around us. Nobody can turn on the news and disagree with that. We need to at least develop some relationships with the rhythms of the world around us right now. So, I want the book to be a warm welcome in to do that. But also, how you do that is very important. And I love that people are asking: How do I do it ethically? You have this opportunity to go forward intentionally and choose the lens that you want to view this work through, and you can center Indigenous people, and our traditional knowledge and our relationship-building and community-centered lifeways, as you go forward. Which means that you are also building relationship and building community with Indigenous people and we’re all working together. And how do you interact with Native people who have been deliberately othered in the state, and deliberately made invisible? Growing up in the U.S., we don’t hear from Indigenous people, and that’s what causes a lot of the mystic Indian tropes. And you can see that in the [U.S.] education system, which ignores Native people, and refers to us in the past. But we are still here, and we are safeguarding so much of the world’s biodiversity. We’re also at the forefront of environmental science; we have incredibly sophisticated people working in our environmental departments. We have climate action plans, we have stewardship plans, we have everything we could possibly need to go forward to rehabilitate the land except power and influence. Even if I only reach one person at a time, and they went about things in a different way and began to understand the value of [traditional ecological knowledge and Indigenous foodways] in a new way, that would be a success. You recommend that non-Native folks contact their local tribal representatives when they want to learn how to gather acorns and other Indigenous ingredients. What do you say to people who worry that they’d be bothering them in asking for their services? There are non-Native people out there who run foraging classes and you have the choice to either pay them or you can call or email tribal peoples or tribal entities and say, “Listen, I’m interested in learning more about this. And I can pay non-Native foragers, but I would prefer to put my resources with you. I want to center your knowledge. Do you offer any classes to the public for gathering or know of anybody willing to show us how to gather?” I realize it’s uncomfortable! Because, again, [people are used to] othering of us, and don’t know how to interact with us. They feel like they’re going to bother us. But that just keeps people going to foragers who are non-Native. But overcoming that awkwardness is important because the worst thing that can happen is that they can say, “Yikes, we don’t know anybody.” “People are still reliant on commodity food and subsistence gathering. And often when you go out to gather your traditional foods, they’re not there anymore.” You share strategies for decolonizing your diet gradually by adding, for example, a cup of squash to frybread or a cup of acorn flour to bread to replace processed white flour. Can you say more about that approach? Because our palates are all colonized, to some degree, we have to reintroduce these foods gradually. There’s a dilution that occurs. But I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing. Because we can’t all go rushing into the forest right now to completely decolonize our diets. It’s impossible. We would we need to set up new food systems that are as robust as the ones we have now before we could do that. This is a gradual change. One cup of a corn flour instead of one cup of white flour is still one less cup of white flour. In [Indigenous] communities that really matters. We are all suffering from diet-related diseases. It’s terrible. And it’s so difficult to right that ship for many reasons. There’s so little food education, no access to healthy foods. People are still reliant on commodity food and subsistence gathering. And often when you go out to gather your traditional foods, they’re not there anymore. The fish are gone and the fires have burned the mycelium mats, so the mushrooms aren’t coming back the same. Anything that we can do to start turning this ship around is important. And it’s about eating and nourishment, yes. But it’s also about connecting to community and connecting to our role as people for the environment—and waking up to our obligations to everything around us. You recommend that readers start to expand their worldview and their approach to Indigenous foods slowly, but you also go on to write, “I want to impress upon everybody the urgency with which we must act to keep our ecosystems healthy.” How do you balance that desire to move slowly and build deeper connections to ecosystems against that larger sense of urgency? “Hurry up! And go slow”—that’s what I’m telling people. Connecting to this approach requires you to go slow in the beginning, but as you develop your own connections and your own relationships it’s like a snowball; it will start to build on itself exponentially. And you will become more attuned to these issues and more connected to the activism that Indigenous people are engaged in. And then, in a year, you will have so much more knowledge and it will be an exponential leap to the next year. And it goes on from there. If you go too fast, and you’re not developing relationships or practicing reciprocity, then you’re just perpetuating the same cycles of settler colonialism and extraction that got us into this mess in the first place. You worked with the California Indian Museum and Cultural Center teaching cooking to Indigenous elders during the pandemic. Can you speak to how that work helped shape this book? Indigenous readers were really the first and only audience that I was considering at first. This whole book took a lot of checking in with community and gut-checking constantly about how to go forward and be inclusive, because I really, genuinely believe that we need everybody together to do this. And I don’t think that Indigenous people alone can do this. But I do want to prioritize the health of our communities first, because I want us to be healthy and ready to keep it up. “We are reclaiming that history and knowledge, and we have to teach it to our children.” As lost as [non-Native people] might feel sometimes about how to go forward and who to ask about Indigenous foods and practices, we often feel the same way. Many Native people are disconnected from family and community, and they’re spread out or flung all over the place. For instance, I’m on Coast Miwok land, but I’m not Coast Miwok, so I’m still a guest on this land. How do I go forward here in a way that centers reciprocity? And we’re all asking these kinds of questions. Most of our foodways were not documented in California because it was considered “women’s work.” We just have smoked salmon and acorn soup. I know we had a massive variety of foods, and it was vibrant, colorful, nuanced, and delicious. And yet, if you were to read documentation about the Karuk tribe, you would see that we only ate two things. We are reclaiming that history and knowledge, and we have to teach it to our children. And sometimes I teach it to older people who were sent to boarding schools or whose parents were sent to boarding schools and didn’t want to have anything to do with their indigeneity when they returned. It is complicated for all of us. There are not very many people doing this work in a way that is engaging all people. And that’s mainly because there are so few of us and the first focus has to be on fortifying the people in our own communities. But I’m a white Indian, so I want to be able to leverage my whiteness to speak to a non-Native community, and to engage them about how to go about this in a good way. I’m like a liaison. I have a whole half of me that isn’t Native, and it’s a challenge to reconcile these two sides. But I don’t have to reconcile them right now. What I can do is use what was good on [my Italian side]—the things I learned about family and community and how to show my love through food and laughter and storytelling—to uplift the Native people in my communities. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.  Acorn Pumpkin Muffins Muffins are such a forgiving bake, so this is a great place to mess around with some dried fruits and toasted nuts if you like a little extra something in your morning nosh. Muffins are also very easy for little hands to make! Get the niblings involved with this one. Makes 12 muffins Ingredients 1½ cups all-purpose flour 1⁄2 cup acorn flour ½ cup chocolate chips (see Note) ¼ cup maple sugar 1½ teaspoons baking soda 1½ teaspoons baking powder 1½ teaspoons pumpkin pie spice ½ teaspoon salt 1⅓ cups whole milk 1 large egg 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 1 cup cooked squash puree Note: This is a very forgiving recipe, so you can add more or fewer chocolate chips or substitute them with dried fruit and/or nuts. Directions Preheat the oven to 375°F. In a large bowl, mix together the flours, chocolate chips, maple sugar, baking soda, baking powder, pumpkin pie spice, and salt. In another large bowl, mix together the milk, egg, vanilla, and squash puree. Stir them together to form a batter. Do not overmix. Fill the cups of two 6-cup muffin tins three-quarters of the way full. Bake for 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean. This recipe is excerpted from Chími Nu’am: Native California Foodways for the Contemporary Kitchen by Sara Calvosa Olson. Reprinted with permission from Heyday © 2023. The post This Indigenous Cook Wants to Help Readers Decolonize Their Diets appeared first on Civil Eats.

Study: The best way to restore ecosystems is to listen to Indigenous peoples

However, outdated science and views leads many researchers to ignore traditional knowledge.

Indigenous food systems and traditional land management techniques are the best options for tackling ecological restoration. However, outdated scientific models and conservative views on environmentalism has led many researchers to overlook and discount traditional ecological knowledge held by Indigenous peoples. That’s according to a new study in Frontiers. Researchers from the Indigenous Ecology Laboratory at the University of British Columbia and the Historical-Ecological Research Laboratory at Simon Fraser University looked at two restoration efforts in St’at’imc and Quw’utsun territories and outlined a method known as “pop-up restoration” employed by environmental NGOs, extraction industries, and government agencies that offers prescriptive techniques to restore and heal land without considering local, Indigenous scientific practices. Pop-up restoration, the authors suggest, comes from deeply rooted misconceptions of Indigenous livelihoods and knowledge due to long-standing, deeply ingrained prejudices and racist ideas. According to the researchers, pop-up restoration, or restoration initiatives that don’t make their restoration goals and impose inequities on unceded and stolen lands, often overlooks traditional food systems and Indigenous histories. In the report, the authors assessed two disturbance-restoration cycles and the ways Indigenous food systems approach restoration ecology and Indigenous land — especially when restoration erases longstanding land management and stewardship efforts. “An Indigenous food systems lens provides a holistic approach to food production, distribution, and consumption, that centers humans’ coexistence with other living beings and prioritizes a cultural-ecological equilibrium over exploitation or fixed restoration goals,” wrote the authors. The first example comes from St’at’imc territory in British Columbia, where St’at’imc voices were ignored by the government, hunters and ranchers while providing traditional knowledge for the restoration of lands devastated by a wildfire. In June 2021 a heat dome in the region created record-breaking temperatures resulting in 619 heat related deaths and creating extreme fire conditions over much of the Pacific Northwest eventually leading to the McKay Creek Wildfire which burned about 85 miles of forest. In response, a technical committee was created to facilitate communication between affected Indigenous and settler communities, the Canadian government and ranchers. The St’at’imc Nation were given the opportunity to take part in the committee, and share their ideas on the best ways to restore the land. But during the restoration process, government-led wildfire recovery in the region was largely driven by the values, goals, and priorities of only a few interest groups. Ranchers wanted to reseed much of the landscape with crop species that would introduce non-native plants, reducing native vegetation needed for the survival of mammals, birds and other wildlife — many of which are relied on by the St’at’imc Nation. “We observed how government policy and decision-making overlooked, and in some cases outright dismissed, St’at’imc voices, knowledge, and expertise at the table,” wrote the authors. “Non-Indigenous hunter and rancher interests seemed to be given priority over St’at’imc values, goals, and priorities, especially when those interests were at odds.” The authors highlight that the settler colonial history in the St’at’imc region began in the late 1850s with the Fraser River Gold Rush, which led to the establishment of cattle farming on the forests and grasslands in the area. The clearing of land for cattle, introduction of invasive species through fodder, wildfire suppression, the ownership of land by settlers and the removal St’at’imc peoples from their lands resulted in damage to the region, which helped the McKay Creek wildfire, the climate, and the St’at’imc people. Overall, the authors of the study said acknowledging the effects of past and ongoing waves of colonialism, being genuinely open and flexible to evolving community needs, being familiar with past failures and wrongdoings, and understanding and having compassion for the varying levels of interest, knowledge, resources, and skills for supporting land healing initiatives are important to the redevelopment and maintenance of lands.  “Results suggest that applying an Indigenous food systems lens to ecological restoration may provide a tangible framework for resolving some of the issues faced in top-down colonial policies common in pop-up restoration contexts,” the authors wrote. This story was originally published by Grist with the headline Study: The best way to restore ecosystems is to listen to Indigenous peoples on Oct 12, 2023.

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